Sunday Lowdown #56

Notice Anything Different?

Several readers have pointed out that Grab the Lapels seemed inundated with advertising, especially the icky kind warning of gut parasites, signs of impending heart attacks, and super foods to clean our your bowels. Welp. I checked out my site while at work (I use an ad blocker at home) and was saddened by the fact that there were ads after ever 2-3 paragraphs in my reviews. Gross. I updated to the personal plan with WordPress, and using a coupon found it a great deal. Happy ad free browsing, readers!

Interesting Notes from Class:

This week we read more about library resource sharing, which allows libraries to maintain robust collections without worrying that they have to have every title available “right now.” No library can have every title, so systems have different solutions in place: sharing books with different branches in the same library system, reciprocal borrowing cards for nearby library systems, and inter-library loans.

  • “One of the earliest references to [reciprocal lending/borrowing] dates from 200 BC, when the library in Alexandria is know to have lent materials to the Pergamum library.” — Peggy Johnson, Fundamentals of Collection Development and Management, 4th ed., 2018, pp. 325-326
  • E-materials are still complicated and rarely lent out (aside from a chapter or two), with the #1 issue being copyright law, by which lending is defined as “theft.” — Johnson p. 331
  • Librarians are shifting from helping patrons find books on a subject to researching the web (e.g. Google Scholar) for open access articles. Weltin — Heather Weltin, “Interlibrary Loan Services Today,” Library Information and Resource Sharing, ed. by Beth Posner, p. 32

This Week’s Blog Posts:

Sliding in at the last second of Black History Month, I reviewed To Be Young, Gifted and Black by the wonderful Lorraine Hansberry. While the work wasn’t what it purported to be (an autobiography), I was still pleased to read snippets of the playwright’s life and work. Please read A Raisin in the Sun soon so you can enjoy the depth and beauty of Hansberry’s work.

I also reviewed a brand-new book from Zora Neale Hurston entitled Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick, a collection of stories that evidenced Hurston’s ideas that would make it into later famous works. Definitely for the Hurston fan, not a good place to start.

Next Week’s Blog Posts:

Ruth Ware’s female-led thriller/mystery novels are quite popular, and her latest is a twist on The Turn of the Screw. On Tuesday I’ll share my audiobook review of Ware’s novel The Turn of the Key, set in Scotland in an isolated “smart house” with weird kids and creaky noises.

Having children is a complication matter that leaves a whole lot to chance, even if the parents have the best-laid plans. In Doris Lessing’s novella The Fifth Child, she demonstrates just how chancy childbearing can be when a family’s fifth baby is a real-life monster. Check out my review on Thursday to learn why I think The Fifth Child would make a marvelous book club selection.

Book I’m Reading Aloud to My Spouse:

Although we’re both enjoying Tibetan Peach Pie (mmm, pie) by Tom Robbins, it’s piecemeal organization makes it easy to stop and pick up later. We’ve decided to switch to True Grit by Charles Portis, as it is the one book/one community pick this year. There will be events soon all over the county that tie into themes in True Grit, and I’m excited that some events focus on both film adaptations (John Wayne’s version in 1969 and Jeff Bridges’s version in 2010) and the process of screenwriting. It’s a small book, around 200 pages, but it’s made a big impact on American culture.

Books Added to the TBR Pile:


  1. I haven’t noticed the ads, since I follow your blog via the WordPress reader, but I can see why it must be annoying. Congrats with your new ad free blog! I am looking forward to read your review of the Ruth Ware, I’ve seen very different opinions. Actually, I decided to read it, but then saw a very negative review and changed my mind.


      • I love audiobooks! Most of my *reading* these days is via audio. It is convenient, because you can do other things while listening. Also, sometimes a good narrator can add an extra dimension to the reading experience and as you say, some books lend themselves well to the audio format.


  2. I’ve listened to both of Ware’s recent books. I loved how Turn of the Key turned the old gothic house trope on its head and made technology so creepy. Looking forward to your review.


    • I was struck by the way the house is like a Frankenstein’s monster in that the old and new are sewn together to make this weird house that doesn’t quite work but is hideously beautiful.


  3. Yay for less ads! I pay for the business profile on WP (200 bucks a year, I think), but for awhile I turned on the ‘ads’ thing where they place ads and pay you for them, but I was making so little, like 2 bucks a month, and they don’t pay you out until you reach 100 bucks a month, I just turned it off again. Not worth bugging my readers for that little amount of money that will (eventually) be paid out 🙂

    Looking forward to seeing what you thought of Turn of the Key-especially on audio!


      • I see many flaws within her books actually, but that being said, I still really like her books, I get excited when I see a new one. I would hope her publishers/editors would tell her about these problems, but I think she makes them too much money LOL

        Did I tell you I met her a few years ago at a cocktail party? She was EXTREMELY NICE haha so I always feel bad pointing out my problems with her books


        • LOL! It’s so bad when you meet an author and then hate their book. Thanks to my MFA program, I met a lot of authors, but I discovered that it’s typically better to read the book from the library before buying it. You can really spend a load of money in the hopes of getting a book autographed, and if it turns out bad, well, there’s your name right on it.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved The Turn of the Key, I hope you enjoyed it!

    I just read Their Eyes Were Watching God for the first time with my book group. I appreciated it more as a piece of social and literary history than as a novel, but most of the group really liked it.


  5. I guess I always read your blog through the WordPress Reader because I hadn’t noticed ads but always nice to do away with them!

    I’m looking forward to your review of Doris Lessing. Have you read much of her before? I had to read The Golden Notebook for a class once and it’s the only required reading novel I never finished. I can’t even remember why I hated it, I just know I now I have this visceral dislike of Lessing, even though the description of this one sounds fascinating to me.


    • There is a “short” story by Lessing (and I use quotes because it’s quite a long short story) called “To Room 19” that blew me away. It was surprising but also made loads of sense, and I loved it. I later read a book of hers called The Cleft and didn’t find it as enjoyable. I never find myself seeking her out, but because I stumbled upon this novella in a used book store, I bought it.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m a Doris Lessing fan, I own a few though not the Fifth Child. I had been looking at reviewing one, maybe the Making of the Representative for Planet 8, since Jackie got me fired up again on women’s SF.
    I’m having a week off so I went to the library with a list including Zora Neale Hurston, Piper Kerman and Jeff van der Meer, but struck out. Sorry.


    • I thought you said you already listened to Kerman and van der Meer? That’s why I asked if you had a review. Anyway, I have a message for you from my ten-year-old niece. Her school asked all the kids to invent something, I believe to fix a problem. She was worried about the Australian bush fires, so she invented “dragon shoes,” a spray that goes on your shoes to prevent them from catching on fire. I told her I would let you know 🙂


  7. I use an ad blocker and assumed most people do at this point. Plus I think many just scroll through the WordPress reader. Our site has ads, too, but I never see them since they’re all blocked!


    • I just scrolled through a couple of your posts while at work and I actually didn’t see any ads. To my knowledge, there is no ad blocking at work, and that was where I originally saw the ads on my own site.


      • Interesting. I also wonder if there’s a difference for people logged into WordPress or not. Maybe WordPress users are less likely to see ads on other WordPress sites?


        • I’m not sure. I’ve heard around from other bloggers that WordPress seems to be having some fits. I think they’re getting ready to roll out an upgrade because I saw a thing about trying out the new beta version, or something like that, before the full change happens.


  8. I usually read your post via the WordPress app so hadn’t noticed the ads. But I might need to investigate changing to a personal account too, ads can be annoying. I’m going to read your review of Zora after I get my thoughts collected and write a review too. I enjoyed it and am planning to read something else from Zora this year.


    • The personal account isn’t too cost prohibitive. The regular price is $4 per month, its less if you pay for 2 years, AND I had a coupon that WordPress had emailed me.

      Which Zora are you thinking of reading next?

      Liked by 1 person

        • Indeed! I really enjoyed the autobiography but was also aware that Hurston had to write it knowing that she couldn’t include all of her true feelings because he patron would also read her work. I got a lot out of the biography by Robert E. Hemenway. He didn’t have to worry about hiding anything and gives a good, well-rounded look at Hurston’s life.


  9. Every now and then I go into a panic about the gross ads that must be in my free WordPress version, but no one’s ever complained so I’m not ready to spend the money yet. I tend to use the wp reader and don’t see them there, so I forget for a while that ads are an issue, and then when I look up a post outside of the reader app I am abruptly reminded. It is unfortunate that the ads wp allows are so unpleasant, but I suppose it motivates users to upgrade. Ah, well. Someday. I do think going ad free is a nice gesture to your readers!

    Intrigued to see your final thoughts on The Fifth Child this week!


  10. My library lets us borrow from any other library in the state free of charge, and they can reach out to libraries in a nearby state via WorldCat I think. It’s really a wonderful system.

    I hope True Grit goes a little better for you than Tibetan Peach Pie! That’s the kind of story my dad loves (True Grit, that is).


    • Tibetan Peach Pie is going really well, but when we learned of the “One Book, One Community” pick, we jumped on it because Tom Robbins’s memoir is easy to pause.

      Has your dad read another other Portis novels? Or one called The Shootist?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t even know for sure if my dad read it- I know he saw the movie (I guessed they were related but maybe not). He likes anything western, so if The Shootist is good maybe I’ll get it for him for his birthday or something. He was a big Roy Rogers/Clint Eastwood fan growing up. And maybe the other one.. Sam something…


  11. I won’t lie, I saw the cover for The Shootist and laughed aloud. The title slays me for some reason. What is it about?

    I’ve never heard of “One Book, One Community” before this – it sounds like a lovely community program! We have something similar tied to the University called UW Go Big Read. This year we read The Poison Squad. And by “we” I mean the community. I won’t lie that I passed on reading it this year. But you read it, right?

    I’ve never read True Grit. Based on the subject matter, I fear it will be too violent for me. Let me know what you think!


    • So far, True Grit isn’t violent. I mean, we know the narrator’s father is murdered, but you don’t get descriptions, and the first 40% of the book is the narrator trying to secure Rooster Cogburn and get him to hunt down the man who killed her father. It’s really, really funny, actually.

      The Shootist is such a derpy name, but the idea is amazing. A gunslinger has finally met his match: cancer. He’s about to die this wimpy death instead of going down in a blaze of glory. When people her he’s dying, they flock to him like vultures. How will he take control of his own death? And can he?

      I think your Go Big Read is basically the same thing as our community read. I did read The Poison Squad and did not care for it. If you’d like, you can find the review in my search box on my site. I found it repetitive and not as informative as I would have liked.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Congrats on the ad-free space – I’m a fan. There are enough places we visit, wherein we don’t have the choice of avoiding the ad’s. In my off-hours, I much prefer to read uninterrupted. 🙂 But I do understand that companies who offer free services are compelled to recoup their costs by other means.

    Have you read much Doris Lessing beyond this one? That’s one I read years ago because it was recommended to me, but I don’t remember anything other than the obvious bits. (And I never read the follow-up.) Lately I’ve been thinking about returning to her. I picked up a charming older paperback of Martha Quest later last year and I’ve wanted to read that one for awhile.

    How did The Undocumented Americans end up in your stacks? I’m curious about it. I’m also curious about the new HBO series “In America”, but hoping to finish a couple of other series before starting another one. (Even though I know it’s not a series exactly.)


    • Honestly, I pick up a lot of book suggestions from my Goodreads feed, and since you update there so often, I’m wondering if I saw that you added The Undocumented Americans!

      I haven’t read a ton of Lessing — “To Room 19,” The Cleft, and The Fifth Child. Her writing style is so odd, so uniquely Lessing, and I find that it works better for shorter fiction pieces. I didn’t enjoy The Cleft, feeling like it went on forever.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the ad free experience at Grab the Lapels 🙂


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